A search of Mount Marathon near Seward resumed Saturday morning after being suspended Friday evening for Michael LeMaitre, the 66-year-old runner last seen during the 85th annual Mount Marathon footrace Wednesday.
Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen and searchers say the footrace's trail and its surroundings were thoroughly searched Thursday and Friday, despite searchers reporting difficulties including poor visibility, rockslides and encounters with two black bears. Saturday's efforts, with at least 65 searchers on the mountain being aided by clearer weather, focused on areas of Mount Marathon not yet explored.
- Photo Gallery: Family of Missing Mount Marathon Runner Watch Final Hours of Organized Search
- Search for Missing Runner: Friday Night Update
- Search on Mt. Marathon: Christine Kim Reports from Seward
- Troopers Search for Missing Mount Marathon Racer in Seward
- Photo Gallery: Missing Mount Marathon runner Michael LeMaitre
- Road Running
- Mt Marathon, Alaska 99664, USA
That follows Friday's effort, with at least 50 searchers looking at Mount Marathon's higher and midrange elevations.
Two base stations for the search have been set up at Seward's fire station and airport, with AST's Helo-3 flying teams from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group to various points on the mountain, from which they will search downhill -- a reversal of Thursday's pattern, in which crews made their way up the mountain on foot.
At least three search-and-rescue dog teams were involved in efforts to find LeMaitre, which completed a preliminary search of the entire east face of Mount Marathon Thursday. Teams had planned to begin searching the more treacherous west and south sides of the mountain Thursday evening, before the search was suspended overnight.
AMRG spokesperson Dean Knapp says there is snow on the top of the mountain but no snow tracks, which makes searchers confident that LeMaitre isn't near the top. The southeast side of the mountain and the vicinity of the race trail have also been cleared.
LeMaitre's family reported him missing at about 7 p.m. Wednesday. Race officials say LeMaitre, a lottery participant in Mount Marathon's 3 p.m. men's race who was wearing bib 548, was last seen headed uphill about 200 feet from the top of the mountain at about 6 p.m.
Troopers say LeMaitre suffers from poor eyesight, while race officials said he was wearing black running shorts and a black T-shirt-- but not his glasses.
According to Knapp, searchers are considering the theory that LeMaitre made it to the top of the mountain Wednesday, but took a wrong turn at the turnaround point for runners to descend. A glove and water bottle were found along the trail Thursday, which will be brought to LeMaitre's family to see if they're his.
Seward Police and Fire led an initial search for LeMaitre, and a trooper familiar with the course walked it in an effort to locate him. AST spokesperson Megan Peters said Thursday that searchers expected to find LeMaitre.
"We have every reason to believe he's on the mountain," Peters said.
Michelle Lynn, LeMaitre's daughter, said he is in fairly good health, and was in a good mood before starting Wednesday's race. His family expected him off the mountain by 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
"He was excited to do it," Lynn said. "One of the racers who saw him near the top said that he was adamant on getting to the top and that he was still walking on up."
Lynn says that was the last anybody saw of him.
Lynn says LeMaitre isn't the kind of person who would walk away from plans without telling anyone.
"He's very devoted to his family, so he would never cause unnecessary stress to us like this," Lynn said.
Editor's note: A reference to LeMaitre's last known location has been updated from 200 yards to 200 feet short of Mount Marathon's peak by race officials.Email Christine Kim and Jason Lamb